Southwest Airlines is the largest airline in the United States and one of the largest eCommerce companies in the world. They are also one of the world's greatest marketing companies, with a clear brand message and very effective advertisements.
On this episode of Marketing Trends, we talked to Ryan Green, Senior Vice President and CMO of Southwest Airlines, about what makes Southwest so effective, and how he helped get them to where they are. Ryan opens up about how Southwest is able to garner best-in-industry customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, as well as how he helped transform their marketing organization to meet the demands of the digital age.
Ryan's Background - (02:50) - His first job was picking blueberries. That helped him figure out what he didn't want to do with the rest of his life. - He stumbled into marketing in college and fell in love with it. - "Life happens and you figure it out as you go along. You don't have to have it all laid out in front of you." - Ryan Green
Ryan's Start at Southwest Airlines - (6:30) - He went in at an entry level position and worked his way up. - Ryan is more of a product marketer and loyalty marketer. - He surrounds himself with great brand marketers in order to compensate for any blindspots he may have in that field.
Customer Loyalty - (9:30) - Customer loyalty is crucial to how Southwest succeeds. - "When you sit down and talk to our customers and ask them why they come back, that loyalty comes down to the experience that they have on the frontlines." - Ryan Green - Hiring employees who really care about customers is crucial to building loyalty. - "If you have to boil customer loyalty down to one thing, it's the employees." - Ryan Green - The loyalty program, Rapid Reward, that Ryan helped engineer is also crucial. - "There is so much focus on acquisition. If you had more focus on customer loyalty, it makes your job so much easier." - Ryan Green
Dealing with Aggregators - (12:00) - One of the most important metrics Ryan pays attention to is "first consideration." When customers consider taking a flight, what is the first airline that comes to mind? - "We always have a maverick mindset. We are never complacent. We are the largest airline in the United States, but we don't act like it. And it's that lack of complacency that pushes us forward." - Ryan Green - Southwest avoids putting their flights on aggregators because they don't see their flights as a commodity and they want to be able to tell their own story. - There is also a cost associated with it that Southwest wants to avoid.
Going Digital - (16:20) - When Ryan started, 65% of their ad spend was on television. - For a company that predominantly sells through their website, this seemed backwards. - His focus has been on shifting more of their ad spend to the digital realm. - Coming into the CMO position of an already successful company, Ryan felt pressure to "not screw it up." But he also knew the company couldn't rest on its laurels.
Transfarency (21:00) - There was a pain point in the airline industry with hidden fees. Southwest decided to address it with complete pricing transparency and honesty. - This was difficult to convey succinctly, so they made up a word: Transfarency - The campaign has been very successful. - The campaign and the initiative around it came from a commitment to truly understanding the customer. - "There is a dedication to really understanding the customer and what they need that you can't get from doing a couple research projects a year." - Ryan Green
Pardot Lightning Round - (49:10) - Favorite App: Ryan loves crossword puzzels - Favorite recent book: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni - Best advice for a first-time CMO: "Don't be afraid to shake things up." - What is Ryan most excited for about the future of marketing? "Marketing is changing at such a rapid pace. No one knows what it is going to look like in 5 years or 10 years. There is always going to be the need to tell your story with customers, but the ways in which we tell it today are going to change. You have to constantly learn. You have to push yourself."
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